4 Major Reasons Alcohol is KILLING Your Strength Training
Let's Set The Record Straight
If you looked at the title of this article and thought I was going to explain all the inherent benefits that alcohol has for your training, uhhhhh, turn back now or forever be disappointed. Unfortunately, when it comes down to most individual’s preferred method of alcohol consumption, it truly holds no benefits in terms of your fitness/training goals, and instead comes packing with a bunch of downsides.
This shouldn’t be news to anyone, in fact, it’s something that I believe we all inherently know; however, this doesn’t exactly stop us from acting completely oblivious to any and all potential warning signs that may have been thrown our way, and the alcohol itself doesn’t exactly help our decision making skills now does it?
Now I don’t want this to be an article where I chastise you for what decisions you choose to make with your life, or to tell you that you need to renounce alcohol from your life forever and think about your sins, no. You are all adults (at least you all better be) and you can all make informed decisions in terms of balancing your training/fitness goals with your daily life and what takes precedence to you.
Where I come in is I’ll help you better understand the facts of the matter so that informed decision you are making is truly as informed as you can be.
Before I shoot into all those negatives though, I will lead off with the best news of all. All the potential side effects of alcohol to your fitness goals come into play when we are talking about multiple drinks within a day, not moderate drinking.
Now “moderate drinking” is hard to define as multiple factors are in play but the rough estimate given is generally two standard drinks for men and one standard drink for women, of course with wiggle room depending on body size and physiological makeup. In fact, alcohol consumption at the “moderate level” has supporting evidence for multiple benefits including things like improving cardiovascular health, lengthening life span, and potential cold fighting amongst other potential upsides.
This all goes out the window, however, when drinking begins to become a bit more…indulgent.
Alcohol as a Food:
Okay we can start off with one of the most obvious downsides in terms of alcohol and our fitness goals and that would be like the food we eat each day, alcohol comes packing calories (This isn’t exactly water that you are drinking). And unfortunately, it carries a fairly high calorie cost at that, only second to fats. Alcohol’s calorie cost comes in at 7 calories per gram of alcohol, whereas proteins and carbohydrates only come in at 4 calories per gram, and then there is fats leading the pack coming in at 9 calories per gram.
This simply means that while it may seem like you are only consuming tiny portions of alcohol the caloric density of your drinks can still be quite high. Add on top of this that alcoholic beverages generally don’t satiate appetite that well leading to you consuming extra calories in the form of additional food, and your single night of drinking could lead to a ton of extra calories that you aren’t even realizing are there in the first place.
Speaking of consuming extra calories, that whole pizza to yourself always seems like the perfect thing to hit the spot after a night at the bar doesn’t it? (Of course if your me, that whole pizza sounds perfect any night of the week…) Alcohol unfortunately has a sort of a one two punch combo in terms of getting you to immediately give up on any dietary restrictions you may have set for yourself.
First, it inhibits the production of the hormone leptin which is responsible for making you feel full in the first place. And then two, the very well-known effect of alcohol is lowered inhibition. This means you are now going to be hungry, and on top of that you aren’t really going to care if that large fry and 20 piece McNugget doesn’t fit into the perfectly balanced meal plan your coach laid out for you.
Dehydration/ The Hangover:
If you had the intention of hitting the gym after your night of heavy drinking, you can pretty much kiss that pipe dream good bye. Even if by some miraculous display of willpower you are able to pull yourself out of bed and get to the gym, your body still isn’t going to be running at peak performance. Alcohol work’s as both a diuretic and can cause electrolyte imbalance generally leading to dehydration after a night of drinking which is one of the main causes of “the hangover” symptoms.
There are a host of other potential causes in play as a result of alcohol consumption for your symptoms as well but the bottom line is you will be waking up with some of the following symptoms headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, muscle aches, and weakness among other things. Doesn’t exactly sound like the best combination for a productive training session does it?
Decreased Muscle Protein Synthesis:
The final major reason alcohol consumption might not be so great for your fitness goals is studies relating to decreased muscle protein synthesis after the consumption of alcohol. Muscle protein synthesis put simply is just muscle repair, and this repair process is exactly how your muscle grow bigger and stronger. You input a stressor i.e. your training, your muscle fibers “break down” in response to that stressor, and then the process of muscle protein synthesis builds them back up bigger and stronger than before to directly combat the stress. Alcohol seems to get in the way of this process inhibiting the normal functioning of muscle protein synthesis.
It’s hard to say to what degree alcohol is inhibiting the process and for exactly how long but the effect itself does seem to be there.
That about wraps it up for the major ways alcohol will impact your training/fitness goals. If we wanted to get into the real nitty gritty there’s obviously other things going on at a smaller level, but these are the big players that will have the most outright impact on training. Again, I don’t think this information is anything that is particularly new or surprising to anyone, it’s just something we should all be factoring into our decision making process when it comes to alcohol. Think, “how much of a priority are my fitness goals to me?”, “how much of an impact will the potential drinking I’m about to do have?” and then make your decision from there.
On a very surface level it’s usually easy to bounce back from one occasional night of drinking, it becomes harder to deal with the ramifications when that drinking turns into successive nights of drinking, however.
As the very cliché saying goes…everything in moderation.